This morning for breakfast, I had a Pop-Tart and a diet soda.
For lunch, I had a “just add water” box noodle meal and a diet soda.
Right now, as I sit here typing, I am having a late-night dinner of a cold pastrami sandwich, frosted animal crackers, and black coffee.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a college student. This is my third year in graduate school, and the seventh of my (seemingly endless) college career. I’m ashamed to admit this, but if I had kept a food diary over the past seven years, most of the entries would read a lot like the aforementioned “meals”.
Like a lot of college students, I don’t do much cooking. If you think about it, the college lifestyle isn’t really conducive to also being a cook: either you live in a dorm with no kitchen, and you rely on a university dining plan for all of your meals; or, you do have a kitchen but, just everything else in your apartment, it’s so darn tiny that you barely have the space to store or cook food; or, you have a perfectly suitable kitchen, but you’re so busy with class/research/work/watching TV/sleeping to be bothered with fixing a hot, nutritious meal for yourself. I’d say I fall into the last category.
I love anything that’s quick and portable. If it’s long-lasting as well, even better, because that means that I can stock up on it and make less trips to the grocery store, I place I truly loathe. This means that I eat an alarming amount of over-processed, well-preserved, pre-packaged food. My freezer is stocked with frozen dinners. My cabinets are filled with single-serving, “grab-and-go” bars and snacks. I rarely even buy fresh fruit and vegetables anymore. Ready-made smoothies, anyone?
I know that eating this way isn’t too great for my health. I know that should eat proper meals, ones that require sitting and plates and cutlery. My mother, doctor, Michael Pollan, sometimes even my stomach tell me that I need to ditch my current “Western diet” and just eat a well-rounded, balanced variety of unprocessed, natural foods. So why don’t I?
Have I mentioned that I’m a college student?
Change it difficult. A complete diet overhall is a daunting task, especially for someone as food-challenged as myself. Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t take baby steps in the right direction. Maybe I can’t shop at the farmers market every week, or make myself a hot, fresh dinner every night. However, I can re-examine some (OK all ) of the things that I eat, and do my best to replace some of my regular munchies with healthful alternatives.
Over the next few months, I’m going to take a closer look at things like ramen noodles, energy drinks, “grab-and-go” snacks, microwavable meals, and my beloved Pop-Tarts—all foods that I, like so many college students, eat on a regular basis. Then, I’m going to do my darndest to hunt down healthier substitutes. Yes, many of these substitutes will still be packaged and processed edibles (I can sense Michael Pollan’s disapproval from all the way over here), but like I said, it’s all about baby steps. I’ll take on “real” foods when I take on the “real” world, in a few more years.